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How to Obtain a Security Clearance

How to Obtain a Security Clearance

Roberta Chinsky Matuson / Monster.com

July 12, 2008

Suppose you’ve come across an hourly job that looks like a great fit. There’s just one small matter: The position requires a US security clearance, and you don’t have one. You may think that you can just apply for the clearance and in no time the job will be yours, but the process isn’t quite that simple.

You cannot obtain a security clearance for yourself. Your current or prospective employer has to do this for you. Since the process is costly and time-consuming, organizations won’t do it unless it’s absolutely essential. Make sure you arm yourself with the following information so you’re ready to apply for the jobs you are targeting.


What’s a Security Clearance?


A security clearance is used to confirm an applicant’s trustworthiness and reliability before providing access to national security information.

There are three basic levels of security classification:

Confidential: This clearance refers to material which, if improperly disclosed, could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to national security. The vast majority of military personnel are given this very basic level of clearance. It must be reinvestigated every 15 years.

Secret: Unauthorized disclosure of the information this clearance covers could be expected to cause grave damage to national security. This level gets reinvestigated every 10 years.

Top Secret: Individuals with this clearance have access to information or material that could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security if it was released without authorization. This level needs to be reinvestigated every five years.


Who Needs a Security Clearance?


If your job requires access to classified government documents or if you work in a government-secured facility, you must hold a security clearance.

Hourly positions that may require a security clearance include secretaries, security officers, librarians, system administrators and computer-support personnel who have access to classified documents or systems.


Obtaining a Security Clearance


According to John Wojcik, manager of security and safety for a Department of Defense contractor, it can take up to two years to obtain a security clearance due to the high number of background checks already in progress. The process varies by federal agency and is constantly being tweaked based on current threats. Here is how it generally works:

1) Applicants must go through the application phase, which involves verification of US citizenship, fingerprinting and completion of the Personnel Security Questionnaire (SF-86).
2) The Defense Security Service conducts thorough background checks.
3) Last is the adjudication phase, during which findings from the investigation are reviewed and evaluated based on 13 factors determined by the Department of Defense. Examples of these factors include criminal and personal conduct, substance abuse and any mental disorders.
4) Clearance is granted or denied when this part of the process has been completed.


Things to Consider Before Proceeding


“The process of getting clearance can be very intrusive,” says Dave Archibald, director of compensation for Bedford, Massachusetts-based MITRE Corp. The procedure may include polygraphs, discussions with neighbors and interviews in which very personal questions are asked.

Moreover, Wojcik suggests you find out from human resources what the disqualifiers are before you quit your current job. “You don’t want to quit a good job only to find out that you are not eligible for clearance because you have relatives that live in another country,” he says.


Avoid Scams


Experts warn job seekers about recruiting firms, attorneys or other companies that promise to obtain a security clearance for you or “preapprove” you for a security clearance — for a fee. They are scams.


Get Your Foot in the Door


If you are serious about obtaining a position for which a security clearance is a must, Archibald suggests starting in a nonclassified job. Put in your time, and let your manager know that you are interested in moving up to a classified position.

Also see Security Clearances 101: How to Maximize Your Earnings


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    amarchena

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Wow, If I read this correctly it states it can take up to 2 years to receive security clearance!! That means our government has a high amount (undisclosed amount) of men and woman from all walks of life, different beliefs and principles as well as religion from all around the world with No Security Clearance working among government personnel who have security clearance, FANTASTIC!!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    almost 5 years ago

    Like "happyfish", I had a secret clearance in the military. How do I re-activate it?

  • Adam_3_max50

    happyfish73

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I had a top secret clearance when I was in the military but I have been out since 1994. What do I have to do to get another one?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    correap

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    Does a prior employer with nycha for close to 10 years classify any in any sort of security clearance on any level?

  • Steve_max50

    binquik69

    almost 5 years ago

    4 comments

    The security clearance is clearly viable considering every thing thats happened .I do not find it any more intrusive th a regular interview.

  • Lisa_photo_max50

    lisarobinson

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    Very helpful information for me since I am just beginning the government job search. Thanks!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    about 5 years ago

    All of the articles say the background check is intrusive but none get into more detail. I really wish I knew what the exclusions were before I took the time to apply, etc.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    coast1e

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    Ainsley,

    Here is a basic article regarding how one applies for a US Government security clearance.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    llr

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    What are the 13 factors that decide if you can obtain clearance. I'm not referring to top secret clearance, only Confidential clearance.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    scmauthor

    about 5 years ago

    6 comments

    This article needs to be updated. The average time to get a security clearance is now about 4 months. Interim Secret clearances can be granted in 3 days or less, based on a conditional offer of employment. So there is no need to "get your foot in the door" by accepting an uncleared job at a cleared contractor facility, then moving up to a cleared job.

    blkbutyy2k: Very few contractors pay for security clearance investigations and none pay for security clearance adjudication. The cost of the investigation and adjudication is almost always borne by the government agency that grants the clearance. These agencies currently pay OPM (the primary provider of background investigations for the government) about $250 for an investigation for a secret clearance and $3,888 for an investigation for a Top Secret clearance.

    galexg: Your clearance terminated when you retired. In most instances terminated clearances can be reinstated for a period of 2 years. In your case you will have to start from scratch.

    SailroCandy: The government hasn't had paper clearance certificates for 20 years. All clearance information is kept in a computer database accessible to most security managers. Your clearance can not be reinstated because you have exceeded the 2 year break-in-service rule.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    blkbutyy2k

    about 5 years ago

    6 comments

    how much does it cost for a security clearance?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    blkbutyy2k

    about 5 years ago

    6 comments

    how much does it cost for a security clearance?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    galexg

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I had a security clearance while I was working. I retired 29 Jun 2007. How do I find out if it's still active? If it isn't, what can I do to activate it?

  • Nam_max50

    SailorCandy

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I retired from the US Navy in Dec 2003, I held a Secret Clearance at that time, where or who, can I contact to get a certificate and how and where, can I get it reactivated? Thanks all answers would be much apprciated.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    jjenkins329

    about 5 years ago

    4 comments

    I have had a clearance while I was working. I retired June 2006. What do I do to get it active again?

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